Though I don't really like crossover-coupes as a segment, truth is, people buy them -- BMW has sold some 200,000 X4s globally since 2014. And as I'm testing the second-generation 2019 X4 "sports activity coupe" near its birthplace in Spartanburg, South Carolina, I can kind of see why. Along the challenging roads that climb and dive through the mountains, the X4's performance chops are really growing on me.
In Sport mode, the X4 xDrive30i is firmly planted around turns. Its 20-inch wheels (19s are standard) wrapped in 245/45R20 front and 275/40R20 rear Bridgestone Alenza tires offer substantial grip. Meanwhile, the optional adaptive suspension keeps the body from flopping all over the place. Steering weight is a little too heavy and feedback is lacking, but turn-in response is near immediate and the brakes confidently scrub off speed. The new X4 has a wider track and lower center of gravity than its predecessor, two traits which automatically improve overall handling.
For the uphill climbs and runs out of corners, the X4's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is sufficiently peppy with 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the latter conveniently online between 1,450 and 4,800 rpm. Swapping cogs is a familiar ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic transmission, delivering fast and fluid shifts in auto mode and also exhibiting excellent response to manual shift commands. The drivetrain combo gets the 4,146-pound X4 xDrive30i to 60 miles per hour in 6 seconds, according to BMW. EPA-certified fuel economy estimates aren't yet just available, though the similarly sized X3 with the same engine gets 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway ratings.
When I'm out of the mountains and back on flat terrain, Comfort mode smooths out the behavior of the X4. Steering lightens, the suspension softens for better ride compliance, and the drivetrain settles down for more relaxed motoring. Surprisingly, there's not much tire noise from the wide 20-inchers at the corners, nor is wind noise an issue on the expressway, largely thanks to the X4's slippery drag coefficient of 0.30.
The X4's quiet interior is something I've experienced in the X3, which itself was redesigned for the 2018 model year. The cabin is nicely trimmed with comfortable seats, and there are lots of storage cubbies. Rear passengers enjoy an extra inch of legroom compared to the old X4, there's 18.5 cubic-feet of cargo space in the hatch, or 50.5 with the rear seats folded flat. That's serviceable space, but substantially less than the X3's 28.7/62.7 measurements.
Also like the X3, the X4 uses BMW's latest iDrive 6 infotainment system with a 10.25-inch touchscreen in the center stack. This infotainment pack offers navigation, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, voice recognition and BMW's weird-but-nifty gesture controls for adjusting volume and to accept or reject phone calls. Working through iDrive's various menus is intuitive with the system quickly flipping between screens, while the navigation system boasts nice map imagery and directs me to all route waypoints without any hiccups.
Other optional tech goodies include a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capable of supporting up to 10 devices, and a wireless charging pad located in the center console -- a good thing, since the X4 only comes with two USB ports. One year of Apple CarPlay capability comes standard, but after that, you'll have to pay $80 annually to use this feature, which is disappointing, but at least BMW isn't charging a $300 flat fee anymore. Annoyingly, Android Auto is still missing.
On the safety front, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, a 360-degree camera and head-up display are optional. An active lane-keeping assist system is also available that even works well during some higher-speed bends.
You can also opt for more performance; BMW will happily sell you the X4 in M40i guise. More punch comes courtesy of a 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 engine, with 355 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque on tap to scoot this X4 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. A more firmly tuned adaptive suspension and larger M Sport brakes are standard, while a torque-vectoring rear differential and 20- or 21-inch wheels can be had as options.
A brief, three-lap run in the M40i around the BMW Performance Center test track is eye-opening. The back end playfully rotates around while being chucked through corners. Really tight turns still cause the front tires to wash out, but all things considered, the M40i is incredibly capable, despite its size and shape. Not that anyone's buying an X4 for track use, mind you.
The 2019 BMW X4 is hitting dealerships now, the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe square in its sights. Base xDrive30i models will start at $51,445, and the hotter M40i will command $61,445. Both prices include $995 for destination.
Like all of these SUV-coupe things, the X4 is hard to rationalize in my brain. The frumpy appearance and practicality concessions versus a traditional SUV -- like the X3 -- simply don't make sense. That said, the X4 is just as comfortable and great to drive as the more conventional X3, and its swoopier shape certainly helps it stand out. 200,000 people can't be wrong.